April 30, 2009


Inertia has delayed my get clean [cleaner] act by at least a month, but I've had fun.
A hi-def version of the video below is available at the links

Eclectic Method - The Tarantino Mixtape from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

April 28, 2009


My wife has a small building downtown, a two up two down that's her atelier and hang out space. It means she has somewhere to go everyday, and it's a nice place.

Because I don't want to clean / decorate, or need to meet clients, I thought about renting a room in a cheap hotel to serve as an office so that I'd have somewhere to go and focus on work, rather than pottering about at home, half dressed and dragging three hours work out into six.

But it turns out that just being outside in cafes for an hour or two each day is enough, as with the world's eyes somewhat upon me there are fewer distractions, and it gets me dressed, albeit in alohas and cut-off jeans - a stereotypically unpresentable early middle-aged foreign man in the tropics.

A cheap room in a hotel looked good until I looked into my heart. I don't need an office with room service, mini-bar, cable TV and massage services on call. As I get older there is a diminishing gap between what I want and what I need, but in places my judgment is still very poor, and the best I can do is to avoid putting myself in certain situations. This is analogous to making all your good choices at the market rather than in the kitchen. Once the potato chips and beer have been purchased I'm already doomed. The simple answer is just not to let them in the house.

Working on this principle I now go to bars three or four nights week.

April 25, 2009

Running tests

two snails negotiating an aloe, via almost taiwan

I get to meet a lot of different people, but they're not that different. Nearly all of them are associated with the good local university, most are master's / PhD students or professors. I met a PhD student doing work on cognitive science, linguistics and special education. A really bright guy, and fun to talk to, as he sees one thing in many different ways.

His English was good, but there was one odd thing. He kept referring to both of us in the third person. He's called Bruce and I'm called Paul, and so he would say something like:
I'm studying face recognition, so we attach some sensors to Paul's head, and then when Paul sees Bruce, we can see what lights up in his brain.
It seemed rude to interrupt and correct him, as we weren't having a class but a discussion. But then later I got half the idea that maybe he was running some kind of test on me - we were talking on campus - and possibly I was being filmed. Which would work out fine. Some of our talk was on mirror neurons, autism, suggestibility and hypnosis, and while we were talking I was consciously mirroring his movements with slightly smaller, slightly different ones of my own, to a) create rapport [possibly], b) test his suggestibility, and c) keep myself alert and very interested in him, not only his words [see (a)].

Paul and Bruce, testing each other.

April 24, 2009

Youthful ambition

In a few years it'll be possible to sit in your basement and cook up a virus that's targeted to a specific person or group's DNA, and if you don't think that some 13-year old boy somewhere isn't going to try and kill everyone in the world except himself and all the big-titted blonde women, then you don't know 13-year old boys.
John Ringo on the Future & You (futurology / sci-fi) podcast [Transcribed from memory]

April 20, 2009

Maintaining a high noise to information ratio


Long time no post. Have been busy, but never tired
, alternating between information and noise, fueled by large amounts of caffeine at one end of the day and large amounts of alcohol at the other. Taiwanese bars are set up so that 2am is an early night and 5am is nothing to write home about, and anything that a Westerner does is greeted with the attitude of 'this is how they all live, this must be their culture'.

I want to write a post on the occupational hazards of being self-employed, but that will have to wait. This is just a placeholder to show that I'm not dead.

April 13, 2009

Matryoshka selves, strange loops and inner voices

I don't do anything in particular to keep my energy level up during the summer. I guess the only thing I do specifically is try not to drink so many cold drinks. And eat more fruits and vegetables. ... I'm not eating these, though, simply to stave off the summer blahs, but because my body just naturally craves them. Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.
My last day at work was November 31st '08, and it's taken me a while to even get slightly used to the demands [and lack of] of a freelancing, unscheduled life. Meaning that for the first four and a half months or so I colored outside the lines way too often, but the almost total lack of stress and the freedom to follow the dictates of the body inre. food and rest seem to have more than offset the late nights, alcohol and often poor dietary choices. I may be distracted, but never tired.

The last few months have been a fall down the stairs series of surprises and sudden rebirths, like waking up within recursive dreams. So I feel like an entirely different creature than a few weeks ago, never mind a year, all the time sloughing off lives like snake skins, and although I don't feel personally responsible for anything that I may have done, other people are bound to think differently.

Related post:
Strange loops and the pleasure of finding things out

April 12, 2009

Mundane in one group

In proportion to the development of his individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is therefore capable of being valuable to others. There is a greater fullness of life about his own existence, and when there is more life in the units there is more in the mass, which is composed of them.
JS Mill On Liberty
People whose networks span structural holes have early access to diverse, often contradictory, information and interpretations which gives them a good competitive advantage in delivering good ideas. People connected to groups beyond their own can expect to find themselves delivering valuable ideas, seeming to be gifted with creativity. This is not creativity born of deep intellectual ability. It is creativity as an import-export business. An idea mundane in one group can be a valuable insight in another.
Ronald S Burt, Structural Holes and Good Ideas [pdf]

April 05, 2009

Exercises in style

Three ways to tell the same story.

Things don't sit in a stable equilibrium, but instead one critical state that then collapses into another. But collapse may be too negative a term for something that's only change, and there are few things that are undiluted positives or negatives for all players in the long run. There's always the ju jitsu possibility of turning weakness into strength.

This idea is neatly covered by Dmitry Orlov in a February '09 talk he gave at the Long Now Foundation, called "Social Collapse Best Practices" [summary here, MP3 here], in which he describes how the weaknesses of the Soviet system - essentially many forms of inefficiency - actually helped Russians survive the various post-Soviet collapses. An entertaining speaker, with lots of jokes and some good observations amid predictions you probably hope won't come true, building on his earlier The 5 Stages of Collapse:
Stage 1: Financial collapse
Stage 2: Commercial collapse
Stage 3: Political collapse
Stage 4: Social collapse
Stage 5: Cultural collapse

A series of three articles in Asia Times from March this year. The problem the article sets up is essentially the one covered by the ugly name of Chimerica [Niall Ferguson- pdf]: how does China escape from its co-dependent relationship with America, not so much inre. exports - which it has little direct control over, as in its huge capital reserves which leave it overexposed to declines in the dollar / rises in US interest rates, both of which seem inevitable with the trillions of dollars of new US govt. debt that will come onto the market this year. Quotes from all three articles below, followed by the links:

Much discussion and debate is currently underway as to whether the US will find sufficient global demand for the more than $2 trillion in new Treasuries coming online this fiscal year alone. But the fundamental risks for the dollar aren't only arising out of that fear over whether demand for Treasuries will be sustained.

Serious risks for the dollar also arise if global demand for Treasuries is sustained. Why? Because that would only thrust the present Treasuries bubble to even more gigantic proportions, further warping the structure of the already severely deformed present global financial order, magnifying the dangerous distortions that already exist and increasing the likelihood of a massive second wave of damage and destruction in this present crisis, and an eventual burst in the Treasuries bubble.
Investors will begin to stampede out of financial assets such as Treasuries and into hard assets like precious metals and certain commodities whose price has been severely beaten down. These will offer comparatively much safer stores of wealth, ones with a real profit potential. China, via its resource buys, is already blazing the trail, going energetically into hard assets, rather than sustaining its 2008 rate of purchases of Treasuries and other financial assets.
There is mounting evidence that China's central bank is undertaking the process of divesting itself of longer-dated US Treasuries in favor of shorter-dated ones.

There is also mounting evidence that China's increasingly energetic new campaign of capitalizing on the global crisis by making resource buys across the globe may be (1) helping itscentral bank to decrease exposure to the dollar, while (2) simultaneously positioning China to make much greater profit on its investment of its reserves into hard assets whose prices are now greatly beaten down, while (3) also affording it greatly increased control of strategic resources and the geopolitical clout that goes with it. This is turning out to be a win-win-win situation for China as it capitalizes upon the important opportunities afforded it by the present global crisis.

1. Before the stampede
2. The not-so-safe-haven
3. China inolculates intself against dollar collapse


What’s going on now is nature’s way of telling you that America’s standard of living has to be reduced by something between 20 and 50 percent. You can have it in the form of a compressive deflationary depression, including widespread bankruptcies… or you can have by way of inflation, in which money loses its value. But there’s one basic qualification to this: the way down is not symmetrical with the way up. That is, it’s really not just a matter of ratcheting down to a standard of living half of what it was, say, in 2006, because in the event all the various complex systems that support everyday life enter failure mode before our society re-sets at a theoretically lower level of equilibrium.

Related posts:
Old systems break before new ones are in place
The utility of slack
A continuous network of critical states